ALL THE DEAR LITTLE ANIMALS

Three children spend a day burying dead creatures in this New Zealand import originally from Sweden.

This perspicacious observation of how children copy adult behavior in their play is also a hilarious spoof on the overtly pious funeral industry. Esther, her younger brother Puttie, and the unnamed narrator have “nothing to do” one day. Finding a dead bumblebee, Esther declares they must bury it, but the narrator is leery of touching it, being afraid of death, and so instead offers to write the poem: “A dear little life in the hand / Suddenly gone, deep in the sand.” Little Puttie, completely in the dark about death, is upset when Esther tells him he too will die when he is “an old man.” “But Mummy and Daddy will be so sad,” he whimpers. After the success of the bumblebee interment, Esther is enthused about burying “all the poor dead animals,” and the children start “Funerals Ltd.,” phoning neighbors for dead pets and scouring the bushes and byways for roadkill. The story cleverly—and tenderly—pivots near its end, giving it a touching depth (with a twist). Eriksson’s keenly observed illustrations include full-page and double-page spreads as well as spots, and they are as wickedly hilarious as the text in their understated expressions and details. An abundance of soft springlike colors present a visually humorous juxtaposition to the morbid theme. The children are illustrated as White.

Dark and hilarious. (Fiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-776572-89-2

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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